College time is the best time to take up robotics as many of us already know or will know. Let us admit it - Robotics attracts a lot of attention mostly because it sounds cool. But with time you realise that this is one of those things in which you get to do and learn a lot of ‘cool’ stuff that you actually come across in real life…for instance, the mobile phone you use. Robotics is very much prevalent in colleges primarily because the components involved don’t cost you a fortune and secondly, because beginner-level robotics is not rocket science. Also, a lot of colleges organise technical festivals that have robotics-centric events which witness a lot of competition and in turn motivates students. Alright, I have blabbered enough.
In this post, I will tell you what a beginner’s robotics kit should contain. These components are indispensable because however complicated your task at hand will be, you will need at least one of these around you. It would be good practice to get this kit up and ready ASAP if you are a robotics enthusiast and don’t have one such kit already. All of these are readily available at an electronics components shop near you or you can always order from Indian robotics e-shops like Robokits, Rhydolabz etc.
This is where you begin your circuit from scratch. Any circuit, however complicated, is almost always implemented on a breadboard. As to why it is called a ‘bread’board, a variety of explanations are available like this one. The following images show a normal breadboard and its internal connections. All points on a line are equipotential.
Cost – depends on the model – generally Rs. 50-75.
Single strand copper wires/jumpers
Breadboard connections are done using these wires as they make life easier than those multi-stranded thin wires that connect the switches to the fans at our homes. But please note, single stranded wires can’t substitute these wires as they have a very low current rating. Jumpers are simple single stranded copper wires with pointed ends to make life even easier.
Cost – Rs. 8-10 per metre.
12 V AC-DC adapter
It is a good substitute for a battery if you are working near a AC supply point. Batteries generally discharge very fast and hence not viable to use them. Also, it is very convenient to draw power from this adapter – a simple loop of two wires gets you a positive and negative terminal.
Cost – varies – a simple 12V/500 mA adapter will cost anywhere between Rs. 80-100.
If you are not too fond of using your teeth to remove insulation from wires, use this. Besides, it also proves useful for a number of other purposes like cutting a Printed Circuit Board or simply PCB, pulling out components from a soldered circuit etc.
Cost – Rs 40-50.
Solder gun and wire
Extremely important to have this around you all the time. Soldering is an extremely important skill to have because last minute changes are inevitable in any circuit. Also, it is desirable to have a few blank PCBs with you just in case there is an addition to your circuit and you don’t want to solder over an already packed PCB.
Cost – Rs. 80-90 for the solder gun, Rs. 30-40 for the solder wire.
Portable Digital Multimeter (DMM)
Multimeter is the most indispensable tool. Measuring potential, current, resistances, looking for shorts in soldering, checking an LEDs functionality….these are some of the major tasks for which you will use your DMM. You have to have it!
Cost – a decent DMM will cost you Rs. 125-150. Some models with more features cost around Rs. 300. Your choice!
It is always handy to have a box each of resistance and capacitance of assorted standard values. Several robotics components require you to have a particular capacitance in parallel (Crystal clocks) or a resistance of a particular value in series (Normal LEDs) so as to prevent damage, enhance efficiency or remove noise etc.
Cost – Rs 40 maximum for each, depends on the number of values and number of items of each value.
Also, it is desirable that you have a few LEDs with you…LEDs are a good substitute for a variety of things like a motor or a relay or checking if a particular pin in your controller (more on this later :) ) is working as desired.
There you go…you have a beginner’s kit ready!
This kit shall be the basic requirement of almost every circuit to be discussed in this space.